Audie Murphy in No Name on the Bullet (1959)


(director: Jack Arnold; screenwriters: Gene L. Coon/story by Howard Amacker; cinematographer: Harold Lipstein; editor: Frank Gross; music: Herman Stein; cast: Audie Murphy (John Gant), Joan Evans (Anne Benson), Charles Drake (Dr. Luke Canfield), R.G. Armstrong (Asa Canfield, blacksmith), Whit Bissell (Thad Pierce, banker), Simon Scott (Dutch Reeger), Charles Watts (Sid, bartender), Warren Stevens (Lou Fraden), Edgar Stehli (Judge Benson), Charles Watts (Sid, bartender), Willis Bouchey (Sheriff Buck Hastings), Karl Swenson (Earl Stricker), John Alderson (Ben Chaffee), Virginia Grey (Roseanne Fraden); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Howard Christie/Jack Arnold; Universal; 1959)
“An off-beat psychological Western.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An off-beat psychological Western that emphasizes the study of character. It’s only bearable, deserving of a more imaginative working for its intriguing premise about collective fear. Sci-fi director Jack Arnold (“Creature From The Black Lagoon”) stylishly helms this exercise in mass guilt and paranoia from a screenplay by Gene L. Coon, based on the story by Howard Amacker.

John Gant (Audie Murphy) rides into the small western town of Lordsburg and checks into the hotel, where card player Dutch Reeger recognizes his name and tells all he’s a hired assassin. Gant’s M.O. is to get the one he’s after to draw on him and then he guns them down in self-defense. This way he’s never been charged with a crime.

Sheriff Buck Hastings informs the town he has no legal authority to ask Gant to leave, as a number of citizens become frightened he’s been hired to kill them. Soon the worried parties reveal their secrets and become sure he’s after them, as the gunman doesn’t reveal who he is after. The only man in town who doesn’t fear the gunslinger is the physician, Dr. Luke Canfield (Charles Drake), dubbed as “the only other honest man in town” by Gant.

When the crooked banker can’t buy Gant off for leaving, he commits suicide. Rancher Chaffee mistakenly believes Gant was hired by the banker so he could get control of his mine, and rounds up the locals to go after the assassin. Lou Fraden took Gant’s wife away and fears Gant is after him, even though reassured by his wife that her former hubby could care less, and after getting all liquored up tries to get up his nerve to draw on Gant. An invalid former judge (Edgar Stehli), fearful of his past associations and goaded to draw because he’s led to believe his pretty daughter Anne has been violated by Gant, gets out of his wheelchair and attempts to shoot Gant with his rifle.

When the mystery is resolved of who Gant is after, he concludes his business and rides out of town with his shooting arm damaged after being struck by an ax thrown by the doctor. I guess that’s meant to symbolize that there’s better ways to earn a living than being an assassin, or being a healer sometimes means using strange medicines to cure their patients. The film remained watchable because of Murphy’s low-key edgy performance and in watching the reactions of the townies as Gant made himself at home in their peaceful community.